Our golf scribe takes a detailed look at the Gran Canaria Open taking place this week at Melonaras Golf Academy.
All this furore concerning the proposed European Super League- justified as it is- has got me thinking about what has happened to the fabric of the European Tour over the past few years. Where was the indignation when the US PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup system virtually turned this Tour into a non-starter for the European heavyweights? Sure, you might get a few who pitch up at the BMW PGA Championship and World Tour Finals. But there’s something severely depressing about watching the tour that I once loved relegated to its current status. The US PGA Tour has always been elite, but the European Tour played a crucial role as the competitive younger brother. Now it’s a distant cousin with no inheritance. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.
The Gran Canaria Open is a brand-new event that is clearly the by-product of post-lockdown manoeuvring. It actually kicks off a three-week stint in the Canary Islands, humorously dubbed the Canary Islands Swing (I don’t think the Middle East should feel overly threatened). The Tenerife Open and Tenerife Championship are to follow. Rafa-Cabrera Bello was born in the Canary Islands and will play host to this week’s event. This event will actually mark the return of the tour to the Canary Islands for the first time since 1995. Last week’s champion John Catlin will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in yet another humdrum line-up.
Melonaras Golf was designed by Ron Kirby and opened in 2006. This course is just ridiculous by professional standards. It is clearly a resort course that is aimed at challenging the ‘skills’ of the jet-setting tourist market. A par 70 that measures 6,503 yards! It is an Iberian resort course, with a modern design, Bermuda grass and potentially blustery conditions. One thing that has to be said: she’s a looker. The hole offers exquisite views of the ocean and surrounding mountainside. It could go either way this week. The huge hitters could destroy the course or the precise operators could have a sniff. Also, look for players who can handle the potentially blustery conditions.
The fast-developing Frenchman Antoine Rozner will lead the markets this week. Perhaps he can sniff an outside chance of Ryder Cup qualification later this year. He could dominate some of these poorer events. Sam Horsfield has gone slightly quiet of late while Matthias Schwab once again flirted with contention last week. Schwab must be one of the most frustrating players ever. Host Rafa Cabrera Bello could use a result. Look out for perennial contenders such as Andy Sullivan and Joost Luiten. And let’s not forget last week’s champion, the somewhat dour-looking Californian John Catlin.
To Win Outright
Antoine Rozner 15/1
Sam Horsfield 18/1
Matthias Schwab 18/1
Andy Sullivan 20/1
Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
Garrick Higgo: To Win 35/1 | To Place 15/2
Higgo played well last week and is fast becoming one of the more dependable players on the tour. I think he could use his length to his advantage this week. Melonaras has three par 5’ and Higgo could destroy them. He will also love this climate, which is much more familiar to the climes of South Africa than last week. His first win came at Serengeti, which is a similarly modern course to this one. A few weeks later he won his maiden European Tour event at the Open de Portugal. Royal Obidos is a very similar Iberian resort track to this one. He comes into this event with four top 20 finishes in five starts. A steal at 35/1.
Marcus Armitage: To Win 40/1 | To Place 17/2
I’m hoping that the affable Armitage can build on his recent upturn in form. He finished 4th last week after a late surge. He was encouragingly 16th in SG: Putting last week. That, paired with his long game, should make for plenty of birdies this week. He also finished in a tie for 10th a week prior to Austria. Armitage was also 12th and 14th last year at Aphrodite Hills, which could show a tenuous link with this week’s resort layout. I really think it’s just a matter of time until Armitage wins his maiden European title.
The Man to Beat: Kurt Kitayama: To Win 25/1 | To Place 11/2
Could we see two consecutive winners on the European Tour this week? Kurt Kitayama has actually started the year in really consistent touch. His Middle-East swing included finishes of 35th, 20th, 12th and 9th (those were much higher quality fields than this). He then finished 2nd in Kenya prior to a tie for 15th last week. The former Mauritius Open winner clearly has an affinity for island golf. I don’t see any reason why Kitayama won’t be in contention this week, and 25/1 looks great value.